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Panthers top field at Powell invite

Randy Andrews goes for a reverse during pool wrestling at the Powell Roundtable Invitational Friday. Andrews won this match by fall, one of the six he recorded in seven matches on his way to the tournament championship at 152 pounds. Randy Andrews goes for a reverse during pool wrestling at the Powell Roundtable Invitational Friday. Andrews won this match by fall, one of the six he recorded in seven matches on his way to the tournament championship at 152 pounds. Tribune photo by Don Amend

There’s a long trip ahead for the Powell Panther wrestlers in their quest of a state championship, but they took a big first step last week, winning their first dual meet of the season and capturing the championship in the Powell Roundtable Invitational Tournament for the third straight year.

Randy Andrews and Olie Olson grabbed the only two gold medals for the Panthers in the weekend tournament, but 11 other Panthers finished in the top six as Powell captured 287 points to finish well ahead of defending 3A state champion Worland.

Andrews nearly pinned his way through the tournament for his 160-pound championship. His only challenge came in his final pool match, when he edged Biggs of Natrona County 6-5. But he returned to his pinning ways in bracket wrestling, dispatching his first opponent in 1:45 and taking only 47 seconds to end his semifinal match. In the final, he faced Biggs again, and this time he took control in the second period and scored a pin in 3:57.

Olson spent even less time on the mat than Andrews on his way to his fourth straight Powell Invitational win. Olson took on four 170-pound opponents in pool wrestling and pinned all of them in a combined time of just over five minutes. Unfortunately, his first opponent in bracket wrestling was unable to wrestle due to an earlier injury, and, after a 15-7 win over teammate Tyler Patterson, he took the finals by another injury default when his Thermopolis opponent withdrew due to an injury.

Charles Wittick and Drew Feller also reached the finals for the Panthers to finish second. Wittick went 3-0 in pool competition at 106. He pinned his first two opponents in the bracket, but lost a one-point decision to a Colstrip, Mont. wrestler in the finals. Feller was 4-0 in his 126-pound pool, and won two shut-out decisions on Saturday to make the finals where he lost 9-1 to a Kelly Walsh wrestler.

Waylon Bays, whose only loss came in the 145 semifinals to the eventual champion, Hanify from Sheridan, finished third for the Panthers, and Dylan Rood (120), Tyler Patterson (170) and Danny Shinost (195) all finished fourth. Colton Parham finished fifth at 113 and Kurt Bullinger did the same at 220. Sixth-place finishers were Zach Thiel (138), Zach Thompson (182) and Erik Denney (195).

“The kids wrestled well,” said Coach Nathan Urbach of his team. “Randy (Andrews) did a good job. Charles (Wittick) did well and I was real happy with Drew (Feller).”

Urbach said everyone wrestled hard, but he saw some areas that need improvement.

“There were some inconsistencies,” Urbach said. “A lot of them were small things that hurt them.”

Powell’s two individual championships were matched by Worland and Sheridan. Colstrip finished with three champions and Kelly Walsh, Cody, Greybull, Lovell and Gillette each had one gold medalist. Natrona County finished third in the meet followed by Lander, Sheridan, Lovell and Colstrip. Twenty-three teams entered wrestlers, including four from Montana and one from Sheridan, Ore., which traveled just more than 1,000 miles to compete in Powell.

In the JV division, five wrestlers finished in the top four. Third-place finishers were Noah Wozney at 106, Nathan McDonald at 152, and Cameron Bennett at 170, while Jacob Davis finished fourth at 145 and Rowdy Gard was fourth at 285.  As a team the JVs finished fifth behind Lander, Kelly Walsh, Natrona County and Sheridan.

“We’re pretty inexperienced at JV,” Urbach said, “but they all wrestled hard, so that’s good.”

In Friday night’s dual meet, the Panthers used eight pins to defeat the Kelly Walsh Trojans. 48-26. The pins came from Bailey Atkinson (106), Wittick (113), Thiel (138), Bays (145), Clay Saldana (152) Andrews (170), Olson (182) and Bullinger (220). Rood lost a close decision at 120, and Feller (126) and McDonald (160) also lost by decision. Matt Widdicome lost by technical fall at 132, and freshman Riley Stringer lost by pin at 285 to KW’s Clark, who dominated the weight in the JV division on Saturday.

The tournament win was satisfying, but it’s only a first step toward the goal. The Panthers also edged Worland in the opener last year, but finished behind the Warriors at state, so the challenge is to keep improving, and the wrestlers will be working hard to prepare for a bigger challenge this weekend when they travel to South Dakota for the Rapid City Invitational.

Last year the Panthers managed an 11th-place finish in the traditionally tough event, which featured 30 teams from Wyoming and North Dakota as well as South Dakota. During last year’s trip to the Black Hills, Andrews reached the finals and finished second, while Olson and Bays each finished fourth and Wittick finished second.

“It’s always a good tournament,” Urbach said, “and we need to wrestle hard and keep improving. We’ve got a long ways to go.”

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